Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Free Agency Winners and Losers

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Free Agency Winners and Losers

Article excerpt

With nearly all of the marquee pieces on the free agent market signed, Dwight Howard absolutely certain he's happy now in Houston and the Boston Celtics already holding their antique auction, the picture of winners and losers is becoming clear.

Some players are still searching for homes and teams like the Knicks are rising from their slumber, hoping to land a bargain-bin score -- using the remaining $1.7 million from their mini-midlevel exception and the $1.4 veteran minimum deals to lure reasonable talent to replace Jason Kidd, Chris Copeland and the rest of the missing pieces from last year's run.

With free agency down to mostly scraps and trades swung already, here are the winners and losers of the NBA off-season:

WINNERS

Houston Rockets: There are justifiable doubts as to whether Dwight Howard is still worth the massive contract and star status after enduring back problems and spoiling two franchises. But the Rockets avoided a sign-and-trade, keeping their assets in place -- a worthy venture if Howard doesn't like these pieces -- and assembling a team that has enough star power to contend for a title now. The best part is that Howard is under tremendous pressure to play nice after being exposed as a backstabber in Orlando and failing to fit with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.

Nets: The biggest free agent coup may have been keeping their own stat-grabber, Andray Blache, in place. But with a bold trade, the Nets shuffled the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, swiping the trio of either aging or over-the-hill pieces from the Celtics to fill out their own roster. Kevin Garnett provides the toughness and defense on the interior the Nets desperately needed, and Paul Pierce could coax more out of his aging body, too, with the Nets not needing him to be a primary offensive option. It's a very brief window the Nets have given themselves, but if they are healthy, the lineup is as good as any in the NBA.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are winners in losing -- shedding some awful contracts in an effort to land Howard, which fell short. …

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